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Abstract

The Mammoth Steppe was the dominant terrestrial biome of the Northern Hemisphere during the late Pleistocene. It encompassed a nonanalog community of animals living in a cold and treeless steppe-tundra landscape. The high diversity of species, including megafauna, could be supported by a productive environment. The carbon-13 and nitrogen-15 abundances in bone collagen confirmed that the coexistence of the large herbivores was facilitated by a pronounced dietary niche partitioning, with some species relatively flexible in the exploitation of browse and graze, while others were more specialized. The isotopic abundances of carbon and nitrogen in carnivores confirm a dietary partitioning, probably based on the size of prey, with an increasingly generalist behavior emerging after the Last Glacial Maximum with notable exceptions. Isotopic investigation reveals dynamic processes of ecological displacement and replacement, shedding new light on the potential niche spectrum of extant species that are now present as relic populations.

  • ▪  The Mammoth Steppe is an extinct nonanalog ecosystem with high productivity and biodiversity despite the cold and dry conditions of the Last Glacial Period.
  • ▪  Stable isotopes reveal that niche partitioning among herbivores and carnivores is a dominant trait of the Mammoth Steppe.
  • ▪  Switches in preferred prey and ecological replacement are observed among carnivores over time, with the few highly specialized predators going extinct.
  • ▪  Warmer and more humid conditions preceding the Holocene impacted large herbivores in most regions of the Mammoth Steppe, driving some of the largest ones to extinction.

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2022-05-31
2024-04-16
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